Peyton Manning and the spread pick-and-roll

Peyton Manning is often described as a wizard, and genius, and all that may be true. But as Grantland’s Chris Brown writes, he didn’t earn that reputation by mastering complex plays.

His story on Manning and the Bronco offense that No. 18 imported from his time with the Colts got me thinking about, what else, basketball, and specifically about the effecitiveness of the spread pick-and-roll offense.

The obvious NBA parallel to Manning and his simple-but-unstoppable “Dig” and “Dag” plays (more on that in a bit) is Steve Nash, who captained the best offense in the NBA for a number of years relying almost exclusively on the spread pick-and-roll and the occasional quick-hitter.

The reason that the spread pick-and-roll worked so marvelously for the Suns then and continues to be an effective look today for teams like the Knicks, Spurs and Rockets, is that it’s a simple play that can only be defended a few different ways. So, when an offense runs it over and over, it has the opportunity to figure out how the defense is going to approach that play and then can react accordingly. Here’s Brown on Manning’s offense:

By using a small number of personnel groups — typically either three wide receivers and a tight end, or two wide receivers and two tight ends — it limited the number of possible responses from the defense and made it easier for Manning to diagnose its weak spots from both a speedy no-huddle (used whenever a defense tried to substitute) and a regular pace of play.

The small number of plays essentially put the full offense at Manning’s disposal at any time, and by combining few formations with few plays, both veterans and newcomers to the offense had their acclimation eased by the small

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